The real origins of the BHS murals

The mural outside the auditorium is not just the subtle, ever-present background to the lives of many generations of Panthers; it is also a rich representation of Burlingame’s history. The portrayals of conquistadors, a Mission, a colonial ship, settlers in a covered wagon, and Native Americans were painted by the notable artist, Frederick Alexander Pawla.

“As far as I know, [Pawla] was traveling around California doing murals in public places, and he stopped in Burlingame to drop some off,” art of video teacher Steve Erle said.

During previous years, it was a common thought that these paintings, called “The Flagship,” “Charting the Coast,” and “The Rendezvous,” were installed at BHS as a part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a program headed by the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression in the 1930s. However, in recent years, local historians have unearthed an article written by a BHS student likely from the late 1920s through the early 1930s that reveals how this theory is false.

According to Jennifer Pfaff, a historian that researched the Pawla murals for a book written by the Burlingame Historical Society, “The salient date is 1928, as per the artist Pawla himself.”

Indeed, this newly discovered article brings credible historical context to our school’s murals, as well as the actual date of their origin.

Posted on December 29, 2016 .